Aussie strawberry industry still suffering after needle scare

The Australian strawberry industry is looking to the future, after the arrest of a woman in connection with the needle contamination scare.

A 50-year-old woman has appeared in court over the alleged planting of needles in strawberries in September, which devastated the industry.

As part of the Queensland Government's AU$1 million Strawberry Industry Support Package, a Strawberry Industry Recovery Officer (IRO) has been appointed to help growers and the broader Queensland strawberry industry supply chains.

Lisa Baskerville will meet with strawberry growers from different regions across Queensland to gather a clear picture of the industry and better understand grower needs.

She aims to connect them with available support packages ranging from low-interest loans, to farm debt restructuring assistance, financial counselling, workforce support and personal wellbeing services.

Industry group Growcom said support packages will go a long way towards safeguarding the reputation of Australian fruit and restoring confidence among growers who are already focused on getting current harvest to market or planning for next season.

"It is clear the quality, integrity and freshness of local strawberries is not the issue, but we must ensure they safely arrive for sale in the same condition as when they left the farm,"  said Growcom CEO David Thomson.

He said the industry is grateful for the support of the community.

"We would also like to thank them for continuing to buy strawberries and getting behind Queensland growers in recent months," he said.

Growcom represents approximately 100 strawberry growers who produce up to 30,000 tonnes each season, counting for about 40 percent of Australia's annual strawberry production.